Cancel Beethoven? The debate goes on

Posted on: September 24, 2020

“Two classical music podcasters have sparked an explosive debate: is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony a ‘symbol of elitism and exclusion’?,” writes Maddy Shaw Roberts in Monday’s (9/21) Classic FM (London). “Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic forcing concert halls to close, you’d be hard pressed to find an orchestra who hasn’t found room for those four opening notes in their 2020 programs.… But a musicologist and a songwriter, stars of Vox’s ‘Switched on Pop’ podcast produced with the New York Philharmonic, have been criticized for their new reading of Beethoven’s Fifth … Specifically, an article penned by presenters Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding titled ‘How Beethoven put the classism in classical music,’ [states] … ‘Wealthy white men embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For others—women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color—Beethoven’s symphony is predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism.’ The pair go on to explore how Beethoven’s most famous symphony influenced new concert etiquette that still shapes our live classical music listening today…. But as such a giant of the music world, there’s absolutely no reason we can’t have a debate about [Beethoven’s] impact on it.”